Colin Chee of Never Too Small: 5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Sheer curtain — It doesn’t matter if you have a roll up blind or blackout curtain, you can always add a layer of sheer curtain. A sheer curtain can really do magic during the day. It diffuses the natural daylight into your living space. The diffused natural light can enhance a room’s ambience through the softening of incoming light, it creates this light and airy coziness within your living space. And when the windows are open and a gentle breeze is blowing through, the movement of the sheer curtain can provide a nice touch to your living space too.
As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Colin Chee.
Colin Chee is the creative director of Never Too Small, a YouTube channel dedicated to showcasing the best in small footprint design and living. His videos interrogate how smart architecture and innovative design can be used to transform small spaces and the future of our cities, and have grown a fan base of almost 1.8million YouTube subscribers off of 110 million views in just 4 years. Never Too Small has recently published their first book, Never Too Small: Reimagining Small Space Living: a curation of their favourite designs from around the world. To get a copy head to their website www.nevertoosmall.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Many people have a clear vision and direction when it comes to their career path. But I stumbled into this universe of possibilities by starting to make videos and uploading them onto YouTube and one thing led to another.
I was working at New Mac Video Agency as an editor and moved into my 37sqm studio apartment back in 2013. Like many others I am constantly looking for inspiration and ideas to improve my apartment.
In 2017 I decided to start making Never Too Small so I could get the chance to visit all the beautiful apartments I came across online, as well as to get some free advice from the architects and designers!
As I made more and more episodes of Never Too Small for the YouTube channel, I discovered that cleverly designed tiny homes can not only enhance one’s lifestyle but can also serve as a way to maintain and improve our growing cities around the world.
We’re on a mission to prove that small space living is not a compromise but an exciting choice to make. By showcasing the best design that prioritises livability, sustainability and community we want to lead the way towards a more optimistic future for our cities.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I once was approached by a Never Too Small viewer in a supermarket while I was doing my grocery shopping. The viewer recognised me from my Never Too Small branded hoodie.
He introduced himself to me and told me that he lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with his wife and his child. He thanked me for giving him ideas on how to improve his home. He learned a few tips and tricks from watching Never Too Small episodes and applied them to his tiny apartment, and they totally transformed his apartment into a much better home to live in. He thanked me for making the videos and improving his quality of life. I was so thrilled and touched by what he told me and it motivated me to keep making more videos.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake would have been when I forgot to press record during an interview session. Luckily we were only 3 questions into the interview, so we had to repeat the questions again. The lesson is to only start talking after the red record light lights up!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
We are currently making a short documentary series about small footprint living in urban areas, it’s called ‘Small Footprint’.
Throughout history, cities have been where we live, play, work and build community. They shape culture and influence our identity and by 2050, 7 in 10 of us will live in cities. As our cities continue to grow they become more at risk of overcrowding, resulting in cities with ever-expanding boundaries, greater damage to our environment and pushing out people who are disadvantaged and socially disconnected.
Small footprint living goes hand in hand with affordability and sustainability in our growing urban context.
This documentary serves as an introduction to our viewers on how urban planning and design is crucial, and how we as collective citizens, designers and thinkers from around the world can learn from each other to improve our future cities and communities and make them more resilient.
In this documentary series, we meet the thinkers, planners and designers that are tackling the big problems our cities face as they continue to grow.
We think our regular episodes on Never Too Small do a pretty good job of showing how you can live well in a small space, but this new series will push that further by challenging people to see small footprint design and thinking as a way to rethink the way we live in our growing cities.
In terms of other existing projects that might help people, our new book Never Too Small: Reimagining Small Space Living is full of ideas and inspiration for reducing your footprint without compromising on comfort or style. It includes architectural images, detailed floor plans and an extensive directory, so it’s a rich resource for anyone looking to build, redesign or reimagine their own small space.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Be a single red flower in the midst of thick foliage — it’s a Chinese idiom. It means to be very outstanding or eye-catching so that people can notice you.
Sometimes we just need to throw out the rule book and be different, fun, unexpected or sometimes totally wacky and be ourselves without fear of being judged.
If I was to follow the same format of what a YouTube video should look like when I created Never Too Small, it may not have been the same Never Too Small we know today. When people watch a Never Too Small video, they’re not just there just for the design, but also for some relaxing escapism through the simplicity of the cinematography and the storytelling.
I have binged a lot of architecture and interior design videos on YouTube since 2011. While other architecture and interior design YouTube videos prior to 2017 heavily featured show hosts, upbeat positive music and roaming camera movement, Never Too Small came in with the complete opposite to what YouTube viewers were accustomed to, and that definitely captured our audience’s attention. It was really cool to see that after we launched Never Too Small, we started to see a lot of similar Never Too Small style videos being produced in many other YouTube videos on architecture and interior design.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Without my wonderful team at Never Too Small, there wouldn’t be a Never Too Small at all. They are the real engine house for Never Too Small, doing all the hard and messy work to make sure we are on top of everything. I am very lucky to have my wonderful team, and love each one of them to bits.
Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Make a corner of happiness in where you live — dedicate an area for your favourite activity to do at home. If you like to read, make a comfortable reading nook where you can spend hours reading. Or if you’re into Xbox, invest in a good TV, comfortable seating, and maybe a good pair of headphones. Invest a little more into things that spark joy in your life, it’s definitely worth it!
- Your space, your style — there’s no right or wrong when it comes to decorating your own space. If neon colours make you happy, decorate your living space with neon coloured furniture and objects. You don’t necessarily have to follow what’s on trend or what looks good for others, after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Live the way you want to live, be more experimental!
- Lighting- This is really the soul of the living space! No matter if you live in a big house or a micro apartment, you can always experiment with ambient, accent and task lighting. I also love using candle light at home in the evening, it helps to create that hygge feeling in the home. The correct lighting can improve your mood and also helps you to relax at home, or to bring it up a notch. Paired with an aromatherapy diffuser within your living space, heavenly.
- Plant and pet- either one will add more life to your living space. If you’re born with a green thumb, then that’s awesome! But if you’re a black thumb plant serial killer like me, you can always try easy growing plants like an Umbrella Tree, English Ivy or Devil’s Ivy. And of course, a pet! I have a dog named Shiro, a 6 year old Japanese Spitz. Every time I get home from work and open the door, this fluffy little happiness machine showers me with so much love and joy. If a tarantula brings you joy when you get home, keep one!
- Sheer curtain — It doesn’t matter if you have a roll up blind or blackout curtain, you can always add a layer of sheer curtain. A sheer curtain can really do magic during the day. It diffuses the natural daylight into your living space. The diffused natural light can enhance a room’s ambience through the softening of incoming light, it creates this light and airy coziness within your living space. And when the windows are open and a gentle breeze is blowing through, the movement of the sheer curtain can provide a nice touch to your living space too.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
In a post pandemic situation (or when it’s safe to do so), cities around the world could close off some of their main thoroughfares and let the city dwellers have a nice picnic fair to reconnect with their neighbourhood and the city they love.
This simple picnic around the city event would be a celebration of excitement and vibrancy that a city has, and could also help the city dwellers rethink and reimagine what they want their neighbourhood to feel like, with less car traffic and reclaiming back the public spaces to make the city a truly desirable place to live.
Even better, some of these main thoroughfares could transform into permanent pedestrian and bike only thoroughfares after the event.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them :-)
I am not a breakfast person, but the person I would love to have lunch or dinner with is Andrew Tuck, the founding editor of the global magazine Monocle and who is also the host of The Urbanist, Monocle 24’s radio show dedicated to making better cities. I absolutely adore his work. It would be such an honour to get to know him in person and to learn from him.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Colin Chee social media:
NEVER TOO SMALL social media:
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!